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Blair joins organisation tackling anti-Semitism

by Desmond Busteed

The former prime minister, who converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in 2007, is to become chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, which campaigns for European countries to make Holocaust denial a criminal offence, clearly define racism and anti-Semitism, and to pay for security at synagogues and Jewish schools.

"Curiously enough it sort of makes sense, for two reasons, firstly there's no doubt he is a believer and I think he is passionate about religious reconciliation in general. That's a very genuine part of his core being," said writer, broadcaster and minister of Maidenhead Synagogue, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain to Premier.

"I know he gets a lot of criticism for some of the failures, like in Iraq, but we have to remember that he had a lot of successes, notably in Northern Ireland, where one of the things he had to deal with reconciling the religious differences," added Dr Romain.

Blair faced criticism during his time in the position for being overly sympathetic to Israel. According to the Guardian, the Palestinian Authority's former chief negotiator Nabil Shaath said Blair had "achieved so very little because of his gross efforts to please the Israelis".

In the joint article in the Times with Moshe Kantor, the president of the council and of the European Jewish Congress, Blair claims Europe is entering a dangerous era as it is experiencing the slow rate of economic growth last seen on the eve of the first and second world wars.

Blair and Kantor write: "There have been three points in the past hundred years when annual GDP growth in Europe went below 1%: first in 1913, just before the first world war, second in 1938, just before the second world war and third, in 2014. Economic decline fuels instability and we know these concerns are being felt across the world."

The pair cite work by the Kantor Institute at Tel Aviv University which found that 2014 was the worst year in the past decade for anti-Semitic incidents. It recorded 766 violent anti-Semitic acts compared with 554 in 2013.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain speaking to Premier's Des Busteed:

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